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Emerald City Feels Like Game of Thrones’ Plagiarizing Twin

Emerald City opens as all timeless tales of wonder do, with a woman covered in blood and carrying a backpack full of baby emerging from a cornfield. It has all the room in the world to continue burning your expectations, so buckle right the fuck up.

Tale as Old as Time

Emerald City is NBC’s new drama (?) based on the Wizard of Oz that has risen to take the throne of the currently crumbling (or at least expiring) empire that is Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, it only seems to know the general vicinity that throne was in. It has literally no idea what it is doing besides its tone. I guess the best term for it is a gritty re-imagining, but I feel like that’s giving them more credit than they are due for understanding the source material. Or at the very least understanding the audiences’ understanding of the source material. Notable edgy differences include drone technology, crucifixion, and whorehouses. I’m not going to lie, I had to open up a bottle of alcohol to get through this.

The premiere opens with a woman wondering out of a cornfield with a baby in a backpack, speckled with blood. She approaches a farmhouse and rings the doorbell until the family opens up. She then proceeds to say things to them that are unintelligible, but somehow conclude with her passing ownership of a child on to them. I guess they always really wanted one, and this was quicker than adoption. I’m not in the market for a child, so who am I to judge?

The show immediately jump cuts to 2o years later. The family in this farmhouse has managed to construct a barn, on top of the cost of raising a child. The child is revealed to be Dorothy Gale, who has some strange dot birthmark on her hand. She works as a nurse at what I thought was an old folks home, but is so shiny and new looking that I believe I’m supposed to think it’s a hospital. It has more than one floor, and I know that’s a big no-no with old people because stairs can be hard, so I’m going to assume it’s a hospital. Dorothy has a conversation with a doctor that amounts to “I wish we could get to know each other,” deftly countered with “I only got time to fuck.” I bet you will never guess who says what. I doubt it will ever matter. Dorothy also steals some prescribed medication from an old woman under the guise of offering to help her clean up nail polish. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

The scene progresses to Dorothy back home at her family’s farm, chatting with her mother in English and her father in Spanish. Her father is sick with something, so that’s why she stole that medication from the hospital. Why she couldn’t afford the medication on a nurse’s salary while still living at home is beyond me, but I’m no economist. I also am starting to develop a severe sense of dread that getting hung up on the details now is going to be the death of me later.

Dorothy bonds with her mother, and talks about how she’s been low-key stalking her real mom who lives in a trailer park in town. Adopted mom suggests Dorothy go talk to her biological mom. Dorothy complains that she can’t because she “wish[es] [she] was more.” I would kill to have a nurse’s salary right now—their unions kick ass. But whatever. Dorothy gets herself hyped up enough to go finally confront her real mom after twenty years, despite her apparently living down the street in a trailer park.

She walks outside and sees a giant storm on the horizon. And then, and this is the most absurd part of the episode to me, a woman who has grown up in tornado country for her entire fucking life hops in her truck to go do a task she could easily accomplish tomorrow. After looking at a giant storm on the horizon. I lived in Kansas in high school, and I spent the night at friends’ houses just because the wind was a little too indicative of tornado weather. This is a bullshit moment. Go back inside Dorothy, have you never seen Twister?

This is required school curriculum in Kansas

Dorothy arrives at her mother’s trailer park house to find the door blown open. Also, there’s a dead body inside, but the show doesn’t seem to give much of a shit about it, so neither will I. Dorothy runs into the tornado shelter next to the mobile home to tend to her slightly injured mother. I now realize that I did not absorb this woman’s name, even though I think she’s supposed to be important…I hope I can be somewhat forgiven. Maybe they’ll mention her again in a future episode. Mom tells Dorothy not to trust the cops, but Dorothy runs out of the bunker to ask the cops for help anyway.

Cops are a respectable breed, I honestly think, especially in small towns where they know almost everyone. Since this takes place in a town of 393 residents, I’m assuming the cops’ first instinct is not to pull their gun on someone who walks up to them loudly yelling for help. This being television, the authority figure deserving of trust in this scene will of course point his gun at Dorothy’s face while being completely oblivious to his surroundings. This allows a tornado to sneak up on him like it’s Jason Voorhees. What can I say, it happens to the best of us.

Long description short, Dorothy hops in the cop’s car, gets picked up by a tornado, and slams into the Wicked Witch of the East so hard it sets off her airbags. Also, there is a police dog in the backseat. That is not an important detail, because the show only wants that dog to exist for one joke. That joke is that “Toto” is the Munchkin word for “dog.” Har-har.

Dorothy manages to excavate herself from what I assume is a major concussion and pilfers the trunk of the car, finding a “Kansas Police” jacket (this is of course factually inaccurate; Kansas has no police) and a handgun properly stored in a first aid kit. She then sets off on a journey that I’m sure old fans and new will find engrossing.

Or not. She is immediately found by dirty children (who look a little like Wildlings) and decides that she’ll just follow their muttering asses wherever they should happen to lead her. In any other medium, this would be the opening murder scene before introducing the real protagonist.

Dorothy is instead lead to a Munchkin village. They’re called something else, but they’re goddamn Munchkins, fuck this show. Some of the Munchkins shout at her in a language I don’t understand for a while, and then one of them just ups and starts speaking English. This is not explained. That’s is a common thread throughout this episode. People will randomly speak what I assume are gibberish languages, and then someone else will just start speaking English.

The English speaking Wildling asks Dorothy if she’s a witch. You see, everyone knows only a witch can kill a witch, and they already found the Witch of the East’s body and put it on a big shrine in the middle of the village and started dancing around it. Dorothy has been here for what feels like fifteen minutes. No, I don’t understand how this was managed. Dorothy of course objects to being a witch. Cue hilarious waterboarding sequence (now with more torture racks made from skeletons).

The next scene pans in on the most Game of Thrones-looking CGI city I’ve ever fucking seen, to the point that I think Game of Thrones might have room to sue. We see Vincent D’Onofrio, who is better than this (I think? He did do Jurassic World…and Law & Order…but man, he was excellent in Daredevil) playing a random organ. He is the Wizard of Oz. Some woman stand behind him waiting to deliver bad news. He knows they’re there to deliver bad news, cause he read the script.

Apparently the flying monkeys in this iteration are going to be drones. Oh joy. They tell him that a drone picked up something falling out of the sky. He is upset by this and dispatches knights to find out what it was. These knights will be your filler for this 80 minute premiere. They will drain my goodwill more than anything else in this debut episode.

He gives me such mixed feelings

Dorothy is now being walked along the Yellow Brick Road by the Wildling who speaks English. Apparently the Yellow Brick Road is yellow because poppies fall on it, meaning you’re high just all the time you walk on it. My type of road. Mr. Wildling casually mentions that the village chose to exile her, but he wanted her executed. Thank goodness they decided to make him walk her to the border on the honor system. The “Beast Forever” is mentioned for what will not be the last time, but will be the only time they say it in a context that doesn’t make “Forever” seem like an adverb to the next word in the sentence. I’m assuming someone thought it was clever in the writer’s room. It’s actually asinine.

The Wicked Witch of the West is introduced in a sex scene, and then they double down on the sex=empowerment motif by having her get it on in a brothel that she runs. I’m not sure what they’re going for, but whatever. This show did not have enough material for a two hour premiere.

Dorothy is on her own traveling the Yellow Brick Road in the next scene, except for when Dog materializes in a shot to let you know he’s still a thing. She then comes across the highlight of the trailer, Sexy Jesus Scarecrow (SJS).

“Are you okay?”

I thought that was a bit heavy-handed in the trailer, but they also make a point to show that he was pierced in the side. In case you knew enough about the crucifixion story to get the gist, but still weren’t convinced.

“You okay?” is Dorothy’s first question. No, there’s still an hour of this, thanks for asking. I’m beginning to doubt Dorothy’s medical credentials. She helps Mr. Sexy Jesus Scarecrow down, and they proceed to create a sexual chemistry that’s almost unrivaled in the space of a two minute scene.

The knights of Oz are now questioning the Lollipop Guild. The Wildlings tell them about Dorothy being exiled, and but lie about the path she took for some reason. They also realize that their Witch of the East they were keeping in a closet has up and vanished when they stopped gloating over it. Cut to what I assume was supposed to be the stinger of a normal length episode—the Witch of the East glowering over Dorothy and SJS. She may not be dead, but she’s certainly fabulous.

The sexual tension between these two needs a chainsaw to get through, it’s so thick. They’re talking about nothing, sprinkled with “I try to avoid responsibility,” from the trained medical professional in the scene.

Then the Witch of the East proceeds to torture them until Dorothy tricks her into shooting herself in the face with a gun. Going off of the rule that only a witch can kill a witch, I’m assuming that gun attended Hogwarts. Based on the rapidity that Emerald City got rid of one of its only main POC, I’m starting to think that black female actors cost too much to employ somehow…Scandal must be bankrupting its studio.

So visually striking, she could never survive in the grimdark.

The big reveal of the next scene is that the Wizard of Oz is going bald. I think that’s supposed to be emasculating or something.

Dorothy, meanwhile, gets the Witch of the East’s gloves. They have rubies on them. They are also invisible. Her and SJS do not pick up the gun they just used to save their lives. But I think it’s supposed to be in their backpack still, because people don’t find it with the body of the Witch.

Exposition happens in Emerald City about magic being outlawed. Glinda and Elphaba are catty to each other because that is what women are supposed to do when they’re in the same room, I guess. They prepare to do funeral rites for their sister. They also insult each other about being older.

The knights of Oz get some more scenes. They are now just following Dorothy’s footsteps but saying less exposition. One of them mentions they should kill their captain. He doesn’t like walking, it’s safe to assume.

Dorothy and Scarecrow are walking more again, and the major injury of a stab wound in his side is starting to cause minor health problems. That is the rest of the episode for these two. Scarecrow being sick and Dorothy trying to help him. Some knock knock jokes are thrown in. It is all abysmal.

They find an apothecary. I have no idea what her name is. I don’t think it’s even mentioned. She offers to help them when she realizes Scarecrow is part of the Oz knights because of his sword. Apparently that is a bad thing. Sexy Jesus Scarecrow does not have his memories, so he does not know. The apothecary also keeps a boy locked up in a room with a key, but locks her house door with a magical thicket. This, of all things so far, bugs me. The boy’s name is Pip, or Tim, or Pim. His only friend won’t pronounce it the same way throughout the episodes, so I don’t know. Dorothy does some basic herbal remedies, and more people ask if she’s a witch.

The Wizard’s Guard gets another scene tracking Dorothy. This will probably amount to something eventually. Not today though, I assure you.

Presented so you can conceptualize the Wizard’s Guard.

The witches then get together to start the funeral rites for their sister, since magic isn’t outlawed for the day. The Witch of the West shows up late and high to the funeral, so based on high school hierarchy she’s supposed to be the cool one. Glinda is understandably pissed about this, what a square. A dance sequence happens, some spells are sucked out of people’s mouths, and the scene cuts back to SJS being sick.

The apothecary tries to poison Scarecrow, because apparently the Wizard’s Guard are pieces of shit. Dorothy force feeds him burnt up wood, which I’m pretty sure is not the same as activated charcoal, and he’s cured of his foaming at the mouth poisoning. They lock the door on the apothecary with a sword, then kick down Pip’s door to rescue him. He runs off with Jack.

Dorothy and Scarecrow hang out for some reason until the apothecary does crazy magic to heat up a sword, then blows up the door instead as if she was rehearsing a planned breach with her local SWAT team. She then proceeds to try and shove what I assume is more poison right into Dorothy’s mouth, while Dorothy acts like a toddler who doesn’t want to eat. SJS murders the apothecary. The scene drags on. Dorothy stops looking at him with “fuck me” eyes.

The show closes with Dorothy and Sexy Jesus Scarecrow walking down a road. SJS won’t stop screaming Knock Knock jokes at her, but she knows how stupid those are now and won’t take the bait.

“Knock knock” “Not today, Jesus”

The apothecary is shown twitching on the floor,  which I’m sure is building to the reveal that she’s a T-1000. Pip is revealed to be a girl…a revelation that is not that dramatic to anyone who was watching the episode up until that point, but somehow still makes zero sense.

I’m so excited to suffer through next week.


Images Courtesy of NBC, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Angeles Entertainment Group, and Warner Bros.
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  • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

    The apothecary’s name is Mombi, but it’s said like once so why even. And yes Dorothy grabs the gun off the dead witch’s body, because our hero is a smart cookie and knows she needs to have an extremely distinctive weapon so she can be ID’d as the killer so the plot can happen right.

    • Gordon Joseph

      thank you for clearing that up, I’ll try not to drink as much next time.

    • BabyCharmander

      What do you mean by “why even”? Her name is Mombi because that’s what it was in the books. Of all characters, Mombi and Tip are the ones who actually seem pretty close to how they were in the books.

      Like, not trying to defend the show in its entirety because it’s riddled with problems, but the stuff with Tip and Mombi was actually one of the very few things I think the show handled fairly well. Tip, Jack, and Mombi, being characters that showed up in the second book, aren’t characters that get put into many Oz adaptations, so this was something that was actually nice to see.

      • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

        With a lot of the characters I feel they’re dissimilar enough that giving them the same names is more weird fan-service than anything else. Like how Glinda is not even remotely Glinda. It doesn’t give any hint what they’re like or anything, just reminds you “Hey this is based on a famous property!”.

        Fair enough on this one, though. It is very close. Which makes the rest of it worse.

        EDIT: And they have time to reiterate how Eamonn is totally stalking our hero but saying Mombi more than like twice is somehow a bridge too far.

        • BabyCharmander

          Oh, no argument there. The subplot with Tip and Jack and Mombi is basically the only reason I’m watching the show. The rest of it is just awful in comparison.

          • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

            I was real disappointed they didn’t go with a trans narrative in Tip/Ozma’s bit, seeing as originally Tip is literally a fake person that Ozma is transformed out of.

          • BabyCharmander

            They ARE going with a trans narrative though, from what I heard? I’m not sure HOW, but that’s what I saw in some news articles and interviews.

          • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

            Well we can hope. A bad beginning doesn’t mean a bad always.

  • I absolutely cannot get over this. The munchkins torturing her, the sexy Strawman being played straight as the sexy love-interest, the opium laced road… catty Elphaba and Glinda?? Weirdly my favorite part of your recap was when you couldn’t decide on Pip’s name.

    I cannot WAIT for that badass looking Lion to be introduced. Please tell me this is secretly parody.

    • Gordon Joseph

      Apparently her name is Tip. Literally the only one I didn’t guess because that is not a name.

      • Ангелина (Angelina)

        Tip, naturally) and the apothecary should be Momby, then? I mean, Tip was a boy guise of Ozma in the books (or, rather, she was put under gender-bender spell)…

        • Gordon Joseph

          Well, I have no book knowledge outside of the time I read Wicked. Maybe this would be amazing if I did…

          • Suou no Nioi

            I mean, this came into later books in the Wicked series, which is the only way I know of it, but it’s still not very good.

          • Will113

            Since its in the public domain, you can just go here;
            http://literature.org/authors/baum-l-frank/the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz/index.html
            But I doubt it’ll add anything.

          • Ангелина (Angelina)

            Even WITH book knowledge it is not easy to recognise the warped images, I think. Especially as Momby was Wizard’s accomplice in the source… when would they ever understand that changing all white into black doesn’t suffice even for a deconstruction, not mentioning a good show…

        • Suou no Nioi

          Yes, the apothecary is Momby, although it is only said once or twice and I didn’t even remember it until I read your comment. So yeah, that’s clearly what they’re going for here, but you have to know the source material to get it.

  • Bo

    “Vincent D’Onofrio…”

    NO, WHY DO THESE STUPID SHOWS TAKE THE ACTORS I LOVE.

    You’re brave to suffer through this. Holy cow. It’s like focus-group hell.

    • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

      Read a little into the troubled production and those last three words will be even more amazingly true.

      • Seriously? And here I was holding out hope that this was a show designed to troll us

  • rara

    I didn’t catch the apothcary’s name because I was like IT’S FIONA SHAW!
    I actually liked the show. Which might have something to do with the fact I don’t really have any famliarity with the source material. This is probably going to be my trash show that I enjoy to watch but can’t understand why I do like Shannara Chronicles was last year.

  • Jana Wolf

    I am so excited for you to suffer through this show. No even remotely interested in watching even a bit of it myself, but you sure make it entertaining regardless.

  • Matthew

    God. Why??

    I am so glad that I didn’t volunteer to recap this show because yours was so good!! The children who “rescued” Dorothy actually reminded me o the Children of The Forest since they were children at a forest. Anywho.

    I only watched the first hour so I didnt suffer as you did. Thank you for your sacrifice.

  • Priscilla

    This review is a gift. Thank you for it. I don’t plan to watch this show, but I want to keep following your thoughts on it.

  • Suou no Nioi

    I kind of let the stupid of this show roll off my back, so I was weirdly able to catch some details you seem confused on or may have missed, and some things that bugged me.

    The medicine appeared to be for Dorothy’s aunt, not her uncle (still unclear whether that’s a literal aunt and uncle or adoptive or what). Dorothy says something about the woman’s back, I believe, and doesn’t understand why she doesn’t go to a doctor. She seemed to be waiting until the uncle was asleep to bring it up, so the aunt is apparently hiding it from the uncle. Coupled with comments from the mother about avoiding the cops, it makes me think the aunt is in on hiding Dorothy or maybe herself, but I have no idea why. I really wish this episode had taken more time with setting up these character relationships, though, because now that we are well and truly in Oz, I can’t see how we will have time to fit this stuff in comfortably.

    Dorothy’s mom only recently came back to the area, hence why Dorothy doesn’t have a relationship with her. Also, mom’s name is Karen.

    Someone elsewhere suggested that the reason the gun worked is because it was essentially the Witch of the East killing herself. Seems to grok, but it’s still stupid.

    The Witch of the West had no name (like, even IDMB just calls her “West”). I like your use of Elphaba, because it’s still a better name than “West”.

    The Munchkins are basically the Freefolk (like, they are the free people of the tribal lands or some such nonsense, so Freefolk) and the village she landed in was Mungiken (no idea how that’s actually spelled). This pissed me off way more than the Toto thing, and also they were basically just Merlin’s people from the movie King Arthur with Clive Owen.

    And on that note, this show is just a stew made from the leftover bits and pieces of every other epic fantasy show and film from the last couple of decades that has ever been popular or good. Like, the expansive landscape shots and the the going through the mountain all reminded me of Lord of the Rings. And honestly, the Emerald city kind of had that feel as well. But then there’s a ton of Game of Thrones in there. Add in some Narnia and even little touches like Dorothy being a healer because Outlander is popular right now, and the whole thing is just most derivative mess. And a lot of these elements don’t seem to fit with each other, really. I don’t know what this show is trying to be or what it thinks it is, and I’m not sure the show does, either. It’s just an awkward poser of a show that makes me pity it more than actively dislike it.

    • Ira Shantz-Kreuzkamp

      It is spelt “Munj’kin”, I believe. I watched it with subtitles, so it may not be accurate.

      • Suou no Nioi

        Hey, that’s still probably better than my shot in the dark. Thanks!

  • Will113

    Who is this show meant to appeal to? From what I can tell its only real draw is “Look there taking an iconic film and MAKING IT DARK AND EDGY”. It doesn’t seem to be a clever updating of the film, or taking lesser known elements from the book and using them to create an interesting world, so what do we end up with? Another show which seems to think it can use violence, sex and nudity to hide its poor writing.

    • And killing off one of its WOC in the first episode…

  • Maidens&Mules

    The premise for this show feels like a Robot Chicken sketch that someone decided to turn into a TV series. Minus any of the humour or irony.

    I actually think this is worse than GoT. D&D may have butchered characters and motivations, misunderstood the rules of their setting, and cut and changed things without regard for how doing so would effect the broader narrative, but at least they kept the story as set in a world with variable and unpredictable seasons and a medieval level of technology. In the books, and to a lesser extent in the 1939 film, Oz is its own unique world. It has slightly odd features (talking animals) and very odd features (talking, moving objects with intelligence and personalities of their own, that have none of the weaknesses of living things). Unlike many fantasy settings, that are based on medieval Europe, Oz owes far more to the then contemporary turn of the century USA that L. Frank Baum was familiar with. The setting in Emerald City looks and feels just like any other standard fantasy setting. None of what made Oz unique is in evidence. It makes one wonder why they felt the need to tie it to the Oz books at all rather than just making an original series.

  • Jeanna Martin

    Holy shit, I couldn’t get through more than four paragraphs without wanting to punch something. You are a far braver soul than I am to suffer through this show!

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